Newsletter Issue #522: The Mac OS and Windows Are Not the Same!

November 29th, 2009

There is an unfortunate impression, no doubt one that Microsoft strives hard to convey, that the Mac OS and Windows are just two fairly comparable ways of doing the same thing, only the Mac OS is prettier. That may be why the arrival of the Aero eye candy on Windows Vista and 7 were both greeted with such enthusiasm by Windows fandom. After all, now they could claim to possess the same fancy visual effects offered on a Mac.

Unfortunately imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but it doesn’t mean that the knock off is anywhere near as good as the original, or even close. But this isn’t a Windows bashing session. It’s a reality session. You see, I’d very much like to see Windows compete in terms of quality with the Mac OS. Healthy competition is good for the soul, and especially for the customers. Unfortunately, here’s where Microsoft falls down on the job big time.

You see, holding a vast majority of the operating system market doesn’t mean Microsoft builds the best product. If you used that logic, such as it is, McDonalds would have the finest food on the planet since it’s the most popular restaurant.

Microsoft’s usual excuse when they deliver junk is to promise something akin to “don’t worry, we’ll get it right next year.” If that’s true, why did they release an inferior product in the first place? Why not wait until they were able to deliver the real thing? Do they truly expect customers to simply accept more mediocrity when there are better alternatives available?

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16 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #522: The Mac OS and Windows Are Not the Same!”

  1. Andrew says:


    I think you are taking your printer difficulty out of proportion. One printer misbehaving at install is hardly a reason to conclude than Windows 7 is inferior to OS X, or that you don’t like the squares on the taskbar. The squares aren’t as pretty as Apple’s magnification, but are an equally quick visual cue as to which icon your mouse is over.

    Back to the Xerox printer. When Snow Leopard came out, I had trouble connecting my Xerox Printer (WorkCentre 4150s) to my Macs over wifi. Leopard detected and configured everything automatically, but it took about a month for a Snow Leopard driver to arrive. I got it to work using a generic postscript printer driver, but lost most of the advanced document handling features until Xerox released a new driver. Windows 7, on the other hand, detected the printer right away, pulled the driver from Windows update and was up and running in less than a minute. Does that make OS X inferior to Windows 7? Not at all, it just means that my particular printer was easier to set up under Windows 7 than OS X.

    I’ve found both to be about equal when it comes to making things work. In fact, when setting up bluetooth tethering to my BlackBerry, something I never got to work on Vista or XP, I didn’t even need settings for Windows 7. Windows 7 identified my phone as belonging to Verizon, and only asked for my mobile phone number, filling in all of the Verizon-specific usernames, settings and passwords by itself. OS X was easy to pair with my mobile phone too, but I had to hunt down the settings on the BlackBerry forums (Verizon doesn’t officially support tethering on a Mac). Both work smoothly and easily using my phone as a modem, but Windows 7 was a lot easier to configure.

    I’ve found that every time I run a brand-new OS that it takes a few months for everything to work right. Snow Leopard has been a bit tougher than previous OS X releases, but is largely compatible with everything now. It took almost two months for QuickBooks Pro to be updated to Snow Leopard compatibility. On the Microsoft side, Vista was the difficult release. 7 is a breeze, as almost everything runs the same as Vista and if it worked on one, it will probably work on the other. It took many months for things to become compatible with Vista, and 7 benefits from that process being essentially complete.

    I agree with you that Windows and OS X are not equal, they are different. OS X is better at certain tasks, and Windows 7 is better at other tasks. For the most part, their features overlap and you can get the same work done with whichever is on your computer. Writing this comment, for instance, is identical whether I’m booted into Snow Leopard or Windows 7 (or even Windows 2000 or Panther, for that matter), and varies more by choice of browser than OS.

    • @Andrew, No, not trouble. You miss my point. It simply involved more steps to accomplish the installation under Windows 7. What I did was quite normal for this process and no different from installing the printer with Windows XP. It’s not a version-specific thing. The setup procedure is simply more complicated under Windows. Even if I had to install the drivers from scratch under Snow Leopard, the number of steps involved would be less. And that IS the difference between the Mac and Windows in most circumstances.


      • Andrew says:

        @Gene Steinberg,

        I disagree. I clicked add printer, select network instead of local, and the printer installed itself. Under Snow Leopard it is much the same, open the printers control panel, click new and then find your printer under the appropriate tab. Same number of clicks, same number of steps.

        Anyway, accomplishing a given task with one or two fewer clicks just isn’t that big of a deal. How often do you install your printers? I do it once, either when I first buy a new printer or when I put a new computer (or operating system installation) on the network.

        Where fewer keystrokes would help is in something like creating documents, printing, saving, copying, etc. In those normal tasks that I do multiple times every day, there is no difference. My frequently used applications are on the dock in OS X and on the taskbar in Windows 7 and the Quicklaunch toolbar in older Windows versions. Those applications are even in the same order regardless of platform. It takes the exact same number of clicks to launch my browser in Windows as it does in OS X.

        Once in a document, again there is little difference. Some preferthe single menubar at the top, others prefer the one in each window. I honestly don’t care and instinctively go to the right place in whichever OS I happen to be working with at the time. I could see being slower on either system if one spent most of their time in the other, but as someone who uses both in about equal proportion I find no productivity loss whatsoever on either side.

        OS X does look nicer, but I haven’t had Windows 7 or Snow Leopard crash yet, so I have to call stability even. I didn’t have Leopard or Tiger crash more than one or twice either, just as Vista was rock solid after SP1. Come to think of it, Panther never crashed on, nor did WIndows 2000. I never adopted Windows XP, so I really can’t comment on it. I haven’t had stability issues since OS 9 or Windows 9x, and really don’t expect any issues with modern systems.

        There are, as you say in the article, real differences. Nothing can sleep and wake (suspend and resume for Windows folks) as quickly and reliably as OS X. Classic Mac OS was very good in that regard as well. Windows 7 just can’t come close, requiring about 15 to 20 seconds to wake up from suspend, or up to a minute to resume from hibernation. Snow Leopard on my MacBook Air takes about 5 seconds to wake up and become responsive, sometimes as little as 3 seconds.

        Windows has its advantages too. File copy is more powerful, giving options to replace only older items instead of OS X’s limit of replacing the entire folder. Windows, in its professional and business versions, gives you offline folder sync, which is very well implemented and largely stays out of the way. When on the network, you work directly on the network share. Offline folder sync used to update on logon and logoff, but since Vista it just works in the background so when you aren’t on the network you always have the latest version, and your changes update automatically when you return. Conflicts, which arise in any sync situation, are handled well, giving you the choice of what to do, including the option to do nothing.

        I would love to have offline folder sync in OS X just as I would love to have instant sleep and wake on Windows. Those two features are great examples of why I switch back and forth every day.

        • @Andrew, Installing the printer is not a matter of disagreement, but of reality. The circumstances I quoted were accurate. Your circumstances, involving a different printer, may require different steps perhaps, but mostly if the printer drivers are already available to Windows.


          • Andrew says:

            @Gene Steinberg,
            My point had nothing to do with your printer or mine. The basic process of installing a printer takes about three clicks, regardless of whether you are using Snow Leopard or Windows 7. Even if it required 20 clicks, however, the fact that you do it only once makes it a very unimportant distinction between the two operating systems.

            I used to bitch and moan about Windows being clunky and slow to use, but it has gotten a lot better. It still lacks the polish of OS X, but it really isn’t any more or less difficult to get your work done in Windows 7 than it is in Snow Leopard. If you really spent an equal amount of time using each, you would know that. Using Windows occasionally, in a VM no less, does not a fair comparison make.

  2. Andrew says:

    If it works. My Xerox 4150s was a real PITA to configure on the Mac until Xerox released SL drivers. On Vista I had to wait for Xerox to update drivers, but again using a generic PCL LaserJet driver worked as a temporary solution.

    No distinction except that you know how to get around a missing driver on a Mac because you are an experienced Mac user. An experienced WIndows user knows how to do the same thing, just as easily.

    It isn’t simpler on a Mac period, its simpler using the platform you know, period. If you know both equally, it is usually equally simple.

    • @Andrew, One more time: If there are no preloaded or available drivers, all bets are off. When there are drivers available, but not preloaded, the Mac OS X installation process is simpler. There may be a secret handshake or power users shortcut under Windows 7, but that would be poor interface design, since the process should be clear to any regular user.


      • Andrew says:

        @Gene Steinberg,

        Nothing secret about it, there are generic printer drivers for Windows that work most of the time, just like there are for Mac. I don’t see any difference. My wife couldn’t figure out how to connect to our HP LaserJet at home after I did a clean install of Snow Leopard on her MacBook.

        It is very easy to connect to printers, network shares, and just about everything else on Windows these days. It is, in fact, the same as it is for Macs. Even my new digital camera worked right away when I plugged it into both my Mac and my PC, giving me options for which application I wanted to set as default for photos on each and showing the camera’s SD card as a disk drive.

        I’m all for bashing Microsoft and Apple when they deserve it, but you are just off base here, setting up printers on Windows 7 is every bit as easy as setting up printers for Snow Leopard. As for drivers, the chance of a given printer not having a driver is extremely low on either platform unless you are talking about the first few weeks of an OS release. Guess what, those first few weeks are over, any printer you have will either have a driver, or if its ancient, is far more likely to have a Windows driver than an OS X one.

  3. Andrew says:

    Accurately described for what a Windows novice needed to do on a brand-new operating before the drivers were released.

    My hoops to get my Xerox 4150s working on Snow Leopard were just as onerous, on what then was a brand-new operating system before the release of the drivers.

    Sorry, you are wrong here. Trust me, installing printers on Windows is extremely easy, though won’t get many hits on a blog. Installing a printer on either OS that lacks compatible drivers is easy if you know what you are doing, and quite difficult if you don’t. Again, common sense that just isn’t very interesting, but is true nonetheless.

    • @Andrew, To say I am wrong is equivalent to saying the steps I listed aren’t accurate. Sorry, but they are under the circumstances I posed. The same steps applied with Windows XP and Windows 7. This is not a point that can be argued away.


  4. Andrew says:

    The steps you followed are not necessarily the easiest ones. Not knowing anything about your printer I really can’t say much about it. Is it an older model that didn’t even have Vista drivers? If not, I can assure you the Vista drivers would work fine under 7.

    I don’t doubt that you had a hard time setting up your printer in Windows 7, but that doesn’t make OS X easier when it comes to setting up printers, only with regard to THAT printer. The vast majority of people just plug in their printer, OS X or Windows either finds or downloads the driver, and then never worry about it again.

    You had trouble with a printer in Windows 7 that was no trouble in Snow Leopard. I had trouble with a printer in Snow Leopard that was no trouble in Windows 7. Interestingly, both are Xerox printers. It isn’t a matter of Apple or Microsoft doing a better job with their printer installation process, as both are simple and intuitive, but of Xerox not having WorkCentre 4150 drivers ready on the release of Snow Leopard or drivers for your solid ink printer ready for the release of Windows 7. Absent a working driver it is always a PITA to get any device working with either platform, if its possible at all.

    • @Andrew, The drivers were current and marked as Windows 7 compatible. The printer itself is about 20 months old, and is actually still in Xerox’s product lineup. The installation process was clearly simple, but not intuitive. You are clearly disputing something you don’t know about, but I’d be happy to send you screen shots if you still have doubts.


  5. Andrew says:


    I really don’t care about a printer I will never buy. As an experienced Windows user I’ve installed dozens of printers on dozens of PCs and never, not once, has it not been a simple process, at least not since the advent of Windows 95. As an experienced Mac user I’ve installed dozens of printers (usually the same ones) on dozens of Macs and one time, ONCE, I had a problem, back in August, installing my Xerox WorkCentre 4150s on Snow Leopard the first day that OS was available.

    I fail to see how one poorly conceived printer driver on your printer makes the Windows printer installation process inferior to the OS X printer installation process.

    Here are good instructions for you. Open the printer control panel, click the “+” or “Add Printer”, click your printer if it appears, or the type of connection and then the printer if it does not, wait for the OS to find or get a driver, then ignore until your next OS install or printer purchase.

    Notice those instructions are the same both systems, with the same amount of steps. The dialog boxes look different and one has a cute “+” sign instead of the ugly “Add Printer” words, but the result is the same.

    • @Andrew, So you feel that the driver’s configuration violates Windows guidelines then. Well, clearly we are at loggerheads here. I have an experience that you are disputing, but you have no experience with the printer model in question. Frankly, I had the same issues with Windows XP, and I have worked with printers from HP and other companies and confronted similar issues in getting the OS to recognize the output device either via a dedicated PC or via a virtual machine. The issue seems to happen most often with an Ethernet network as opposed to a direct or USB connection.

      You have different experiences. Fine and dandy, but this discussion is over as far as I’m concerned. My experiences are my experiences and if you wish to tell me I did everything wrong, you’ll find yourself on an icy slope. Give it a rest.


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